SEO Strategy

SEO - Search Engine Optimization

SEO - Search Engine OptimizationThe Positive Negative SEO Strategy


There’s a case study on Moz on how to get your site back following a link penalty. An SEO working on a clients site describes what happened when their client got hit with a link penalty. Even though the link penalty didn’t appear to be their fault, it still took months to get their rankings back.

Some sites aren’t that lucky. Some sites don’t get their rankings back at all.

The penalty was due to a false-positive. A dubious site links out to a number of credible sites in order to help disguise their true link target. The client site was one of the credible sites, mistaken by Google for a bad actor. Just goes to show how easily credible sites can get hit by negative SEO, and variations thereof.

There’s a tactic in there, of course.

Take Out Your Competitors

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Simply build a dubious link site, point some rogue links at sites positioned above yours and wait for Google’s algorithm to do the rest. If you want to get a bit tricky, link out to other legitimate sites, too. Like Wikipedia. Google, even. This will likely confuse the algorithm for a sufficient length of time, giving your tactic time to work.

Those competitors who get hit, and who are smart enough to work out what’s going on, may report your link site, but, hey, there are plenty more link sites where that came from. Roll another one out, and repeat. So long as your link site can’t be connected with you – different PC, different IP address, etc – then what have you got to lose? Nothing much. What have your competitors got to lose? Rank, a lot of time, effort, and the very real risk they won’t get back into Google’s good books. And that’s assuming they work out why they lost rankings.

I’m not advocating this tactic, of course. But we all know it’s out there. It is being used. And the real-world example above shows how easy it is to do. One day, it might be used against you, or your clients.

Grossly unfair, but what can you do about it?

Defensive Traffic Strategy

Pleading to Google is not much of a strategy. Apart from anything else, it’s an acknowledgement that the power is not in your hands, but in the hands of an unregulated arbiter who likely views you as a bit of an annoyance. It’s no wonder SEO has become so neurotic.

It used to be the case that competitors could not take you out pointing unwanted links at you. No longer. So even more control has been taken away from the webmaster.

The way to manage this risk is the same way risk is managed in finance. Risk can be reduced using diversification. You could invest all your money in one company, or you could split it between multiple companies, banks, bonds and other investment classes. If you’re invested in one company, and they go belly up, you lose everything. If you invest in multiple companies and investment classes, then you’re not as affected if one company gets taken out. In other words, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

It’s the same with web traffic.

1. Multiple Traffic Streams

If you only run one site, try to ensure your traffic is balanced. Some traffic from organic search, some from PPC, some from other sites, some from advertisements, some from offline advertising, some from email lists, some from social media, and so on. If you get taken out in organic search, it won’t kill you. Alternative traffic streams buy you time to get your rankings back.

2. Multiple Pages And Sites

A “web site” is a construct. Is it a construct applicable to a web that mostly orients around individual pages? If you think in terms of pages, as opposed to a site, then it opens up more opportunities for diversification.

Pages can, of course, be located anywhere, not just on your site. These may take the form of well written, evergreen, articles published on other popular sites. Take a look at the top sites in closely related niches and see if there are any opportunities to publish your content on them. Not only does this make your link graph look good, so long as it’s not overt, you’ll also have achieve more diversity.

Consider Barnacle SEO.

Will creatively defines the concept of barnacle SEO as follows:
Attaching oneself to a large fixed object and waiting for the customers to float by in the current.
Directly applied to local search, this means optimizing your profiles or business pages on a well-trusted, high-ranking directory and working to promote those profiles instead of — or in tandem with — your own website.“

You could also build multiple sites. Why have just one site when you can have five? Sure, there’s more overhead, and it won’t be appropriate in all cases, but again, the multiple site strategy is making a comeback due to Google escalating the risk of having only one site. This strategy also helps get your eggs into multiple baskets.

3. Prepare For the Worst

If you’ve got most of your traffic coming from organic search, then you’re taking a high risk approach. You should manage that risk down with diversification strategies first. Part of the strategy for dealing with negative SEO is not to make yourself so vulnerable to it in the first place.

If you do get hit, have a plan ready to go to limit the time you’re out of the game. The cynical might suggest you have a name big enough to make Google look bad if they don’t show you.

Lyrics site Rap Genius says that it is no longer penalized within Google after taking action to correct “unnatural links” that it helped create. The site was hit with a penalty for 10 days, which meant people seeking it by name couldn’t find it.

For everyone else, here’s a pretty thorough guide about how to get back in.

Have your “plead with Google” gambit ready to go at a moments notice. The lead time to get back into Google can be long, so the sooner you get onto it, the better. Of course, this is really the last course of action. It’s preferable not make yourself that vulnerable in the first place.

By diversifying.

By Peter D. 

Get On Top Today! Call On The Maps Digital Marketing Agency. 866.610.5977

Search Engine Optimization – SEO


A Startling Case Study of Manual Penalties and Negative SEO

Google SEO

This January, I was at a talk at SMX Israel by John Mueller – Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst – about how to recover from a manual penalty. The session’s moderator opened the talk by asking the hundreds of people seated in the room to raise their hands if they had ever been affected by or had a client that was affected by a manual penalty. Nearly the entire room raised their hands – myself included.

Setting the Plot

One of our clients, whom we are very lucky to have, is a company called Ginger Software. Ginger has a set of context-sensitive grammar and spell check tools that can be integrated with e-mails, browsers, Microsoft Office, and more. When we began working with Ginger, they were in a great state from an SEO perspective. I won’t get into traffic specifics, but their site has an Alexa ranking of around 7,000.

Ginger was getting traffic from thousands of different keywords. They had links from news portals, review websites, forums, social bookmarks – all part of a really great backlink profile. Ginger could be in a whole separate case study about the benefits of a content strategy. They have put months of work into online tools, sections about spelling mistakes, grammar rules, and more. These things have attracted great traffic and links from around the world.

The Plot Thickens

Given the above, you can imagine our surprise when one day in my inbox I found the dreaded notice from Google that had a site-wide manual penalty for unnatural inbound links. We quickly set up a call and went through the tooth-rattling ordeal of explaining to our client that they weren’t even ranked for their brand name. Organic traffic dropped by a whopping 94% – and that for a website that gets 66% of its traffic from Google-based organic search.

I’m not going to highlight where they got the penalty … because I think you can tell.

Full Disclosure

Before we go on any further with this case study, I should come clean. In the years of my working in SEO, I have shamelessly bought links, posted crappy blog and forum comments, and run programs that automatically build thousands of spam links. I have bought expired domains, created blog networks, and have ranked affiliate sites with every manner of blackhat technique.

With that off my chest – I will say with as clean a conscience as possible, we did absolutely nothing of the sort for Ginger. While everyone at yellowHEAD has experience with all manners of SEO tactics, in our work as an agency we work with big brands, the presence of which we are categorically not willing to risk. Ginger is a true example of a site that has ranked well because of an extensive and well-thought out content strategy; a strategy driven by creating valuable content for users. When analyzing Ginger’s backlinks, we were amazed to see the kinds of links that had been created because of this strategy.

I was positive that this link would be a spam forum comment or something of the sort. Turns out that it’s a page on a fishing forum about Zebra Mussels. Someone got confused and called them Zebra Muscles; a veteran user corrected them by linking to Ginger’s page about muscle vs mussel.

The Plot Thickens… More.

As we dug deeper into Ginger’s backlinks, we quickly began to find the problem. Ginger had recently accrued a large number of extremely spammy links. Bear with me for a little bit because these links require some explanation. was being linked to from random pages on dozens of different websites in clearly spun articles about pornography, pharmaceuticals, gambling, and more. These pages were linking to random marginal articles on Ginger’s website like this page always using the same few keywords – “occurred,” “subsequently,” and a few other similar words. The only thing these words had in common was that Ginger was ranked in the top three for them in Google.

I had to blur most of the text from this page, as it was inappropriate.

Now, needless to say, even if we were trying to rank Ginger’s site let’s call it ‘unconventionally,’ we wouldn’t have done it to unimportant pages that were already ranking in the top three from articles about pornography.

Now here’s where it gets REALLY interesting

Further investigation into these pages found the same exact articles on dozens of other websites, all linking to different websites using exactly the same keywords. For example:


Link to

Link to


Link to

So – What the $#@!%!#$^ are these links?!

As I mentioned in my disclosure previously – I am no newcomer to link spam, so I happen to know a bit about what these links are. These articles were, first and foremost, not created by us or by anyone else at Ginger. They were also not posted with Ginger Software or any of the other websites linked to in those articles in mind. These articles were posted by spammers using programs which automatically build links (my guess is GSA Search Engine Ranker) in order to rank websites. Each one of these articles linked to some spam website (think something like the-best-diet-pills-green-coffee-beans-are-awesome . info or some nonsense like that) in addition to linking to Ginger.

These programs find places on the internet where they can automatically post articles with links. As a way to ‘trick’ Google into thinking the links are natural, they also include links to other big websites in good neighborhoods. Common targets for these kinds of links include Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and other such websites.

Ginger was not the victim of negative SEO, but was simply caught in the crossfire of some spammers trying to promote their own websites.

We Had Doubts

Once we found these links, we honed our search to find all of them. We were able to do this using Ahrefs, which is a fantastic tool for any sort of link analysis. We organized all of the links to Ginger by anchor text and went after all of the ones with the aforementioned keywords. We removed as many of these links as possible, disavowed the rest, and filed for reconsideration as described above.

As confident as we were on the face of it all – we had serious doubts. We knew how important it was for Ginger’s business to get over this penalty as quickly as possible and didn’t want to get anything wrong. We couldn’t find any other “bad links” besides these ones but we kept thinking to ourselves “there’s no way that Google completely slapped a website due to some spam links to these random pages.” There had to be more to it than that!

Ginger themselves handled this situation incredibly. Where they could have yelled and gotten angry, instead they said, in a sentence “Ok – let’s fix this. How do we help?” With Ginger’s help, we mobilized dozens of people inside their company, trained them on finding bad links, manually reviewed over 40,000 links, contacted all domains which had spam links on them, disavowed everything we couldn’t get to, and submitted the request for reconsideration on December 17th, only five days after the site got penalized. The extreme sense of urgency behind this came both because of the importance of organic traffic for Ginger Software, and because the upcoming Christmas and New Year’s holidays. We knew that everyone going on vacation would significantly increase the amount of time it took to have the reconsideration request reviewed. You can find a very long and detailed explanation of the process we used to clean up Ginger’s links here.

Despite the speed with which we were able to submit the request, it took nearly a month to hear back from Google. On January 15th, we received a message in Google Webmaster Tools that the penalty had been revoked. We, and the staff at Ginger, were ecstatic and spent the next few days glued to our ranking trackers and to Google Analytics to see what would happen. Rankings and traffic quickly began to rise and, as of the writing of this article, traffic is at about 82% of pre-penalty levels.

Lo and Behold – Rankings!


The (Very) Unofficial Response from Google

Getting over the manual penalty, in some ways, was almost as surprising as getting it. The fact that all we did was remove and disavow the negative SEO links and the penalty was removed indicates that, indeed, the penalty may have been caused entirely by those links.

At the manual penalty session of SMX, towards the end of the talk, I crept slowly towards the front of the room and as soon as the talk was over, as unexpectedly as a manual penalty, I pounced to the front of the speakers’ podium to talk to John Mueller before everyone else. I explained to him (in a much shorter version than this article) the situation with Ginger and asked if they were aware of this at Google and what they plan to do about it.

John responded with something along the lines of the following:

“You mean like when somebody creates spam links but also links to Wikipedia? … We have seen it happen before. Sometimes we can tell but sometimes it’s a little bit harder… but [if] you get a manual penalty from it you will know about it so you can just disavow the links.”

I have to say, I was pretty surprised with that response. While it wasn’t exactly an admission of guilt, it wasn’t a denial either. He basically said yes, it can happen but if it happens you will get a manual penalty, so you’ll know about it!

So What Does It All Mean?

One wonders if Google understands the impact a manual penalty can have on a business and if they truly accept the responsibility that comes along with handing out these kinds of punishments. Ginger, as a company, relies on search traffic as their main method of user acquisition and they are not unique in that sense. There are a few important takeaways here.


No matter who you are – big or small, this is crucial. This kind of thing can happen, seemingly, to anyone. We have instated a weekly backlink scan for Ginger Software in which we look through all of their new links from Webmaster Tools, AHREFS, and Majestic SEO. If we find any more spam links (which we still are finding), we try to remove them and add them to the disavow list. Time consuming? Yes. Critical? Yes.

2.) Negative SEO is Alive and Real

It has been my thinking for a long time that links should not be able to hurt your website. At the most, a link should be discounted if it is considered bad. The current system is dangerous and too easy to game. With Ginger, it was obvious (to us at least) that these links were no doing of their own. The links were in absurd places of the lowest quality and linked to low-benefit unimportant pages of Ginger’s website. If this was actually a negative SEO attack, imagine how easy it would be to make it look like it was the company’s doing.

3.) Google is making themselves look REALLY bad.

The action that Google took in this case was far too drastic. The site didn’t receive a partial penalty, but rather a full-blown sitewide penalty. According to the keyword planner, for the top four branded terms for Ginger, there are 23,300 searches per month. In this case that became 23,300 searches per month where people could not find exactly what they were looking for.

Google has an amazing amount of work on their hands staying ahead of the spammers of the world, but they have also become the foundation of the business models of companies worldwide. To quote from FDR and Spiderman(who can argue with that???), “with great power comes great responsibility.” We can only hope that Google will heed these words and, in the meantime, we will be happy with the fact that Ginger are back up and running.

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How To Win Clients And Influence Markets with CLUBHOUSE



Whether you’ve been in business for five minutes or five decades, your company must stay alert to new marketing opportunities. As Facebook et al. continue to receive bad press (rightly or wrongly), now is the time to open your eyes to new social Apps. Clubhouse has quickly established itself as the golden ticket to more clients.

So, what is Clubhouse and how can it become a key ingredient in the recipe for success in 2021? Here’s all you need to know.

What Is Clubhouse?

Clubhouse is the latest social media app to hit the market. 

Actually, scrap that. Dozens have been released since its release, but the vast majority are about as useful as that tie with pockets that you once thought would make a great invention. Unlike most, though, Clubhouse actually has a bright future, which is underlined by the fact its value has skyrocketed from $100m to over $1bn in the space of just nine months!

As the name suggests, the social media App is a members’ only club in which you can join via invite-only. The audio-based App essentially allows its users to host or join live conference calls, discussions, and audio broadcasts. The virtual rooms allow members to connect and interact with each other about an array of topics ranging from new products and investment opportunities to entertainment.

Who Is Clubhouse For?

With streamed audio conversations disappearing after their broadcast, the App is somewhat like an audio version of Snapchat. While you cannot join without an invite, the audio broadcasting social media platform is suitable for individuals and businesses alike. 

However, Clubhouse’s exponential popularity is largely attributed to the fact that it has attracted big names ranging from Elon Musk to Ricki Lake. Still, in its infancy, the majority of virtual rooms are currently presented in a similar fashion to TED talks. However, there are opportunities for listeners to join rooms by requesting credentials to talk. 

The beauty of the App is that you can hold ‘seminars’ and conversations without the need for professional recording equipment while it’s equally open to casual conversations on a range of topics too.

Why Clubhouse?

Before joining Clubhouse, you must first vindicate the decision to include it in your marketing repertoire. So, is Clubhouse worthwhile? The short answer is ‘yes, but you probably want a more in-depth answer than that.

Clubhouse has captured the imagination for two reasons. Firstly, the plethora of celebrities and industry leaders using it ensure that a large percentage of the content is considered high value. Let’s face it; this is a welcome break from reading a newsfeed of old school friends airing their dirty washing out in public (even if we do secretly enjoy seeing the old school bully crying that they got cheated on yet again). 


Meanwhile, the invite-only element has helped make Clubhouse one of the most sought-after platforms. People want to join the conversation in fear of missing out and has helped its members’ list grow by over 150% in under one month. From a business perspective, there are many reasons to choose Clubhouse, including but not limited to;

  • Being in touch with the latest tech advancements is great for the brand image, especially in a world where consumer expectations are at an all-time high.
  • The audio-only features mean you do not have to dress to impress. Likewise, you can read scripts or use visual prompts without listeners being any the wiser.
  • It allows you to multi-task by holding conversations and completing other assignments. Listeners can interact with you without giving their undivided attention.
  • Successful marketing on Clubhouse allows you to connect with audiences that you wouldn’t necessarily reach through other social media or marketing channels.
  • You do not have to invest money into content production, ensuring that any direct or indirect revenue gained from the interactions will actually boost your bottom line.

SMEs can also enjoy the fact that they are in a position to create content that delivers the same quality levels as the virtual rooms hosted by huge brands and millionaire celebrities.

Marketing On Clubhouse

Understanding the benefits of a new and exciting opportunity is one thing, but it counts for very little if you let the ship set sail without you. Resisting the urge to get involved with Bitcoin in 2013 is the reason you’re still running a business rather than relaxing on a private island. Don’t let the Clubhouse opportunities pass you by too.

Successful marketing on Clubhouse is about building a community that turns listeners into clients. Here are five steps that can help you win customers and influence markets with far greater results than any other platform.

#1. Reach Out To New Audiences

The ability to help users find you organically is an important aspect of any digital marketing strategy. After all, you wouldn’t have a business website without a strong SEO strategy – no matter how much your grandad insists the ‘build it and they will come’ mantra is still relevant.

When setting up your profile and planning your conversations or broadcasts, it’s important to use keywords and room topics to attract the right people. Despite the huge audience, the fact that users can only access live broadcasts means that there will only be a limited number of rooms regarding your niche running at any given time. As such, you can pick up new listeners in this way.

#2. Think Business

As a content creator, you want to gain a large listenership. Ultimately, though, your end goal is to gain more clients and increase their customer lifetime values. Perhaps one of the best ways is to run feedback sessions that allow your customers to provide honest insight.

It could mean asking for their thoughts on your current services. Alternatively, it may be using them as a soundboard to discuss the prospect of a new product. Either way, the two-way interactions will lead to increased engagement. Moreover, their support enables you to facilitate a stronger bond while simultaneously adapting your products to deliver an optimal appeal to your niche market.

#3. Become An Industry Leader

The value of trust in business cannot be emphasized enough. Marketing on Clubhouse is one of the best ways to garner greater levels of trust by proving yourself as an authoritative voice in your industry. The fact you have been invited to the App is already promising.

As a new and exciting platform, Clubhouse offers a versatile playground in which you can show your creative flair and do things differently. You are no longer restricted to directly marketing your products. Providing industry news, explainer content, or FAQ sessions are just some of the ways that you can diversify your interactions. Get in front of prospective clients to grow interest and trust in your brand.

#4. Collaborate

Collaboration is a daunting prospect in many aspects of the business. However, working together with other business leaders and content creators can work wonders for your marketing on Clubhouse strategy. You don’t want your content to be repetitive, and the fresh energy is mutually beneficial.

Unlike many social media platforms, Clubhouse is one that actively provides a great listening space for businesses too. Keep up with developments and industry by jumping into other virtual rooms. The information you pick up could be invaluable. When the opportunity to join as a speaker becomes available, it instantly introduces you to all listeners in the room.

#5. Promote Direct Interactions

Like many social media platforms, direct messaging is a key part of how to Clubhouse. It’s great to have a passive listener, but turning them into an active client is the objective. During the broadcast, you can ask listeners to DM you for a freebie or more info on a topic.

Strike up that direct interaction, and you have a far better shot at putting them on the path to conversion. Not least because you will have captured their contact details and open the door to one-on-one participation. Use this to solve their pain points and the heightened sense of value should yield great returns.

Precautions For Using Clubhouse App

While marketing on Clubhouse offers a range of opportunities as detailed above, it’s important to recognize the potential downsides. There are primarily two main issues to contend with.

  • First, you may have a limited audience reach. If members of your target market have not been invited onto the App. Aside from having a small demographic to start with, members have to be available at the time of your broadcast.
  • Second, there is a lack of moderation due to the disappearing nature of the feeds. While hosts can keep users as listeners-only, there is a potential threat of interactions becoming tarnished. On a side note, the audio-only attributes of the App may prevent you from reaching different audiences.

Despite those potential drawbacks, though, the benefits of using Clubhouse for business easily outweigh the negatives. As the platform continues to grow from strength to strength, it’s likely that the audience


It might be in its infancy, but Clubhouse will clearly play a big role in society for many years. Therefore, marketing on Clubhouse should be a priority for all businesses in 2021. Getting in early will give you opportunities to establish yourself on the platform as more listeners join the party.

The first step in the how-to Clubhouse journey is to get invited. Existing members can send the invitation. So, ask your network on other social platforms if they can help. When they do, you’ll be on the path to greatness.


Need an invite to Clubhouse? Leave us a comment and we will be sending invites to a few lucky winners!